Why Working Moms Are Leaving Their Jobs During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Chris Remington
Published Nov 9, 2023

For decades, the percentage of moms who have children under the age of 18 and work outside of the home has risen or remained steady. In 2019, 72.3% of moms who have children under the age of 18 worked at least part-time outside of the home. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended a lot of those economic increases that working moms had earned. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many childcare centers closed or vastly reduced their capacities, focusing on providing care for the children of essential workers. Many employers shut their doors, especially within the hospitality, retail and food service industries. This leaves a lot of moms unemployed. Even so, there's still a considerable number of working moms who have young kids. Many of those moms are single or their income is an essential part of the household's earnings.

Schools Shutter Their Doors in Favor of Remote Learning

For those working moms who do still have a job, they now have to deal with a tough decision. Schools are going all-virtual or into a blended learning environment. This means that children as young as five or six years old, who are in kindergarten, will be learning from home instead of a school building. There aren't any after-school or latchkey programs. Working moms must now deal with the choice to either keep their paid jobs or quit in order to stay home with their kids while the kids are doing remote learning.

Tough Decision Faced By Moms

Women have fought for equal wages and equality in the workplace, and they aren't there yet. Overwhelmingly, women are still in service positions, many of which have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many women are essential workers, including nurses, teachers, grocery store workers and warehouse workers. Single mothers as well as mothers who are the only wage earners in their homes face an especially tough dilemma. They can keep working and earning the money they need for their bills and for the health insurance. However, if their child's school is closed, this would mean their child is at home alone. Not only would the child be home alone, but they wouldn't have any help with their remote schooling during the day.

What the CARES Act Offers

In mid-August, Congress updated the CARES Act to allow moms to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off to take care of their kids whose childcare centers or schools are not open. Employers that have 500 or more workers must opt into this program. Employers that are in essential industries and have fewer than 500 employees don't have to participate. That includes pharmacies, grocery stores, emergency medical services agencies and small school district. The benefit pays 60% of the worker's salary, or up to $200 per day for up to 12 weeks in a calendar year.

Not All Employees Are Covered By the CARES Act

Not all employees are covered by the CARES Act. Those who work for a small employer with fewer than 50 workers aren't covered. This is the case for FMLA leave, too. A worker who hasn't been at their job for 12 consecutive months isn't covered by this benefit. Workers who are part-time or contingent also aren't eligible for this benefit. This CARES Act amendment only includes people whose childcare center or child's school closed. It doesn't include people who home school or people who use a nanny, au pair or babysitter for their kids. If the childcare center stayed open but at a reduced capacity, a worker may not qualify for this CARES Act benefit.

Self-employed and Gig Workers Get No Help

Another group left out of this CARES Act amendment is the self-employed workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased their numbers. When people lost their retail or hospitality jobs, they might have picked up a job for Uber, Shipt, Lyft or a similar service. Some people might have started their own businesses, performing lawn care, pet sitting or something else for other people. Gig workers, freelancers and the self-employed get no help from the CARES Act childcare benefit.

What Moms Are Deciding to Do

Many moms are deciding to leave their jobs. They don't want their kids home alone. They know that kids left alone could get into trouble, or their education could suffer. Many of these moms are hoping that the FMLA leave offered by the CARES Act will be renewed for 2021.

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